If data is the lifeblood of a smart city, then telecommunications networks are the nervous system – constantly humming under a city’s street network to power IoT infrastructure, connect people and keep smart applications online.

In Singapore, many telecommunications companies are drawing on the ‘smart city thinking’ exemplified by the nation’s government agencies. For decades, the government has been using advanced analytics technologies like geographic information systems (GIS) as a foundational platform to bring their smart city vision to life in areas such as transport and urban planning.

GIS technology is now being looked to by the government and telecommunications sectors alike to underpin a new strategic smart nation priority: submarine cabling.

Supporting critical infrastructure deployment

Submarine cables on the ocean floor carry telecommunication signals between countries and continents. It’s an essential infrastructure for enabling smart city capabilities, inter-country connectivity and higher quality telecommunications services, such as data streaming.

Managing and deploying Singapore’s cables is an area of tandem responsibility, with the deployment of cables largely managed by global ICT and telecommunications consortiums, while the approval of cable deployment rests with local agencies, such as the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA).

Routing submarine cables requires an accurate understanding of the seafloor. This includes: ocean depths and terrain; environmental change; weather forecasting; existing oil and gas pipelines; and planned infrastructure construction – to name just a few areas, explains Thomas Pramotedham, CEO of Esri Singapore. “GIS technology provides this multi-dimensional view to enable authorities and consortiums alike to more efficiently, accurately and safely deploy this critical infrastructure.”

Moreover, the technology helps mitigate the risk of damage to existing telecommunications cables or oil and gas pipelines, which has in the past resulted in environmental damage from oil spills. “We’ve been working with oil and gas companies for decades to enable them to safely lay and effectively manage their pipe network, so it’s encouraging to see GIS technology now being increasingly embraced in submarine cabling globally,” said Mr Pramotedham.

Beyond submarine cabling, the technology may also help curb the nation’s issue of ‘cable cuts’ which results from poorly conducted public works, excavation and construction projects. Such incidents have been on the rise in Singapore in recent years and cause significant economic and social disruption. The issue causes thousands of households and businesses to be left without internet, media services, fixed phone lines or television and for hours at a time.

Growing competitive advantage

While telecommunications companies provide the connectivity that’s critical for the smart nation agenda, the sector’s growth has come at a cost. Strong competition in the industry has created a difficult trading environment for many firms.

Companies worldwide are using GIS technology to identify commercial opportunities and threats. In the United Kingdom, for example, Vodafone is using GIS to underpin a new commercial offering. It is using anonymised geospatial data to analyse how groups of people move around cities to help governments and commercial organisations make business, planning and infrastructure decisions.

The Welsh Government uses Vodafone’s data insights to understand traffic patterns in South Wales and ensure its multi-million pound budget is well-invested to deliver the right public facilities and services for citizens. It’s a powerful example of achieving synergy between commercial and government priorities.

The Indonesian-based Telkom Group has innovatively used GIS technology to gain critical service insights into their ISP fiber-to-the-home project IndiHome – an offering that packages phone, Internet, and cable television services. Telkom were able to map and analyse where existing and potential customers were located in relation to Optical Distribution Points (ODP).

The insights derived enabled them to develop an infrastructure roll out plan, with a clearly understanding of network capacity, customer prospects and competitive threats. Additionally, they developed a highly effective and targeted customer engagement program that now underpins its efforts to double the number of IndiHome subscribers from two million to four million by 2020.

To learn more about the evolving role of GIS technology in the telecommunications sector – and in particular Telkom’s innovation diversification strategy – read the full case study by filling out the form below.

Image from soeperbaby on Flickr – CC BY 2.0